In a surprising moment or two of unsteady play, the 16u Athletics Mercado fastpitch threatened to allow the Tennessee Fury Platinum to break through and break open their game Thursday at the Aurora Sports Park.
That’s just not the Athletics’ style, however, especially in a matchup as big as this one, the 16 Power Pool TV contest on ESPN3 at Triple Crown Sports’ Colorado Fireworks event. And after escaping first inning damage from two infield errors, the Athletics maintained their lead and added some key insurance runs late in what became a 7-4 victory.
This title is yet another accomplishment for the Mercado roster, which dominated in events around the country as a 14u squad. On Thursday, they built an early lead using the basics – run-scoring groundouts – and eventually started playing terrific defense. Tough catches against the outfield fence, and throwing out runners trying to take an extra base, all played a role.
“It’s a little uncharacteristic of us to struggle; our defense is definitely our strong point. In this game, it happens, and we try not to dwell on it and figure out a way to move on,” said Athletics head coach David Mercado.
After nursing a 5-2 lead for several innings, the Athletics were jolted by a two-run homer from the Fury’s Kalei Harding in the sixth inning. But in the top of the seventh, the Athletics secured the result with a leadoff single from Quincee Lilio, a double from Lexi Sosa (who had given up Harding’s blast), a run-scoring single from Kinzie Hansen and a sacrifice fly by Paige Smith.
Sosa, a UCLA signee and the fourth pitcher to throw for the Athletics, then retired the Fury in order in the bottom of the seventh.
“My job there is to get on base; it doesn’t matter how,” said Lilio, a University of Oklahoma signee who had three hits and scored twice. “Just had to get runs for my team. Being a part of this organization is amazing – the chemistry is so tight, and we have a lot of fun.”
Hansen’s hit was a true work of art under pressure, as she fell behind in the count and concentrated on putting the ball in play, which she did with an opposite-field hit.
“I went up to the plate looking inside, because that’s how they pitched me the last at-bat with the new pitcher. I cheated a bit and stepped back, but she threw it outside,” said Hansen, who is heading to Oklahoma as well. “I got down 0-2, threw my hands at it and just tried to get one home, because that’s what we needed. With two strikes, you’ve got to try and stay calm, but still be aggressive.”
“These girls work hard and earn everything they get,” Mercado added. “Winning is just what comes along with that.”
Alia Logoleo had two hits, an RBI and a run for the Fury. Kyah Keller-Smith had a hit, run and RBI.